There are a lot of brands operating out of China but they rarely focus on headphones, they focus mostly on IEMs. But those who are interested in headphones are aware of this China based headphone brand “Sivga”. They have been making some of the most versatile headphones I have heard. Last time I had the SV023. It was tuned for details and clarity. Came with a balanced cable too and I found it much better than the HD650. I have no doubts that the SV023 is one of the best headphones under $500. What I have with me here is the Sivga Luan. Priced between $300 to $360 it not only shares most of the head band and padding with the SV023, it sounds and looks equally beautiful too. While the SV023 is precision and accuracy minded, this is calmer, more musical and easier to drive too.
Get one for yourself from here:
UNBOXING AND ACCESSORIES:
We get exactly the same kind of packaging as the SV023. First of all, unboxing is fairly straightforward. Open the upper half of the box and a beautiful looking semi-hard carry case with leather like texture greets us and all the accessories and the headphone are placed inside it. Its 3.5mm cable and a 6.5mm single ended adapter are safely tucked in a drawstring cloth pouch between the headband and protective foam.
I have a small issue with the case though. It barely can fit the headphone and can’t be closed if the cable is attached. This is not a serious issue but unplugging from the sockets every time I put the headphone in the case is not very convenient.
Unlike the SV023, Luan has a more mainstream kind of cable. With a layer of rubber on it, it doesn’t feel like SV023 cable and resembles the Robin cable. It’s an aesthetically decent cable though and matches the headphone’s color scheme. Thanks to the layer of rubber, it doesn’t feel supple or soft. It’s bouncy, has memory issues, but microphonics is not a problem. Thankfully it isn’t heavy, parts used are good looking and minimal in size. All the connectors and the Y splitters have metal jackets elevating their quality.
Sivga does not make clunky or shoddy headphones and the Luan is no exception. Built around a lightweight metal frame and wooden cups this headphone feels lighter than most of the full size headphones. It extends comfortably and should fit larger heads without any issues. At 354g this isn’t exactly feather weight but its minimal looks do give an impression of that. I think a big chunk of weight comes from the bigger and wider pads. There is no excessive use of metal or padding but it still is very sturdy and flexible. Unlike the SV023 where the adjustment band was a bit too easy to slide, Luna has a bit of resistance to it and doesn’t feel like sliding asymmetrically on its own. Its wooden cups add a classic look to it but this open back headphone leaks enough to make the guy sitting next to you in the bus or train uncomfortable. There is a soft layer of padding on the back to reduce leakage and protect the drivers from dust and moisture.
Comfort wise there are no complaint. SV023 has an ergonomically designed hybrid pad with cloth like texture on the face side and faux leather on the sides. Thankfully this time around we are getting an oval pad with an 115mm height and without any ergonomic curves on it. It extend outward providing superb cushioning and can easily accommodate bigger ears. These pads are super comfy but can get a bit ticklish after a while, I had it on when I was doing some twists and it started to feel a bit funny after some time. I should not complain but this is a possibility, especially in humid conditions. It exerts the right amount of pressure on the head and the deep cups do not let it fall easily.
PAIRING WITH SOURCES:
If you look at the specifications, we have an easy to drive headphone in our hand and it’s more or less true. With a nominal impedance of just 38 ohm and 100db sensitivity it is a fairly easy headphone to drive out of nearly anything with a decent amount of power. This headphone responds nicely to my mobile phones with a 3.5mm jack. Both my Galaxy Note 9 and Infinix GT10 pro are driving this headphone with pleasure and it isn’t complaining either.
I used a few dongles and the SQ wasn’t great. That’s definitely odd given that Luan isn’t fighting with mobile phones but this tussle with the dongles is a bit out of my grasp. Everything is a bit more tighter here while the after decay effects are a bit compromised but the main downside is, the mid range, both vocals and instruments get thinner and acquire a V shaped signature. It does make the Luan sound more precise and agile but that’s not what this beautiful headphone is intended to deliver.
Then I moved on to my Burson Audio Playmate 2 and voila!! This headphone enjoys the power and happily responds to the extra power. The natural warmth and timber comes to the forth. We get very good details and clarity with some of the best tonality and timber. But the best part is, this headphone does not need this much of power and works fine with smaller daps and even mobile phones. I don’t know how the dongles didn’t manage to pair well with the Luna but it’s okay I guess.
We all have different requirements from our headphones. Some of us need bass, some of us need details, some of us like smooth and musical notes while a bunch of us like more definition and transparency. At times it’s a lot to ask from one headphone. Most do not manage to balance them.
Thankfully the Luan has one of the most compelling cases to be the “One for all” type of users. This headphone has a beautiful balance of things that makes it an excellent performer in nearly every discipline. While some of the headphones like to take the more detailed and transparent path to cater to the demanding listeners like the SV023 and Ollo S4X, Luan takes a more balanced approach. It’s a beautifully balanced sounding headphone and thanks to the fuller bass notes it does tilt a bit to the musical side. This unique balance struck by the Luan makes things both soft yet spicy and hot yet delicious, a delicate balance of details, musicality and tonality with accurate timber.
It has a warm lower end with a balanced mid and highs. The tuning is so good that it doesn’t blunt the notes while taking the sharp edges off. This review is going to be interesting.
I am not a bass lover. I don’t like pounding bass notes. They bore me. I like precision and dynamics, monotonous bass notes are a big no.
Luan as I said has a warmer lower end that has a bit of bass inclination but the good thing is its dynamics are very good. It has a bit of after decay residue that lands the harder notes slightly softly. The essences of the upper bass notes are retained but there are not rapid or as hard as they are with the SV023. A great thing for those who enjoy bass but it’s a bit boring for the purists (Purist should look at SV023). One can say that its open back design plays a big part here but it’s surprising how this headphone manages to deliver excellent mid-bass rumble. Subs are decent with energy and rumble but it’s the mid bass that does the heavy lifting. It’s not a bass head headphone but the layered notes and superb rumble will put a smile on a basshead. The area of impact is big but there isn’t a lot of weight behind it. Movement of air is decent too.
Overall decay is a bit on the slower side which helps in retaining high amount of texture and definition. This slowed decay helps with the heft too. It’s a well thought out tuning, sacrificing a bit of tightness for a more musical and engaging presentation.
All the heft and after decay residues are left behind and we are treated with one of the best mid range on a headphone under $400. There are cleaner and more detailed headphones around this price but not many of them can state that they can please everyone with their superior balance of tonality, timber and details.
Many headphones like HD6XX and HD58x, HD600 tend to make things a lot thicker, bland and dull (need a dry and expensive desktop source to sound good) and someone like me, who like details, resolution and clarity is left wanting for more.
Luan is a clear upgrade in this regard. We get a nicely transparent and cleaner yet nicely controlled mid range that delivers very good details without being aggressive or thin. Notes aren’t heavy, slow, oversized, rapid or thin, they are aptly paced with a more appropriate amount of heft and body. Notes have decent amount of grounding on the floor while the finishing sharpness is very good with high quality texture. Timber is a bit on the crispier side with a slightly faster decay that elevates its technical abilities. Female vocals have superb accuracy and clarity while male vocals can sound slightly tighter. They still have a throaty tonality and very good texture but are slightly less thick than HD6xx and 600 but have superior clarity and finishing definition. Instruments too have very good transparency and details with high quality separation and air. There is no sharpness or aggression in the upper mid range though.
Luan has been delivering an engaging experience and it doesn’t let down in the treble range either. It has some of the best details for a headphone in the mid range while the highs are a bit less aggressive and marginally relaxed in the upper treble region. No need to worry about treble extension, it goes much deeper than its Sennheiser and Hifiman competitors. The upper treble might be a bit less energetic but transparency and clarity are not dull. Definition of notes are still very good (compared to the Sennheiser HD 600 and Hifiman Sundara) but the notes are a bit less aggressive and tuned to deliver better comfort and less fatigue compared to the SV023. As usual, there is no agitation or aggression to worry about yet delivers very good sparkle and a lively presentation that keeps me interested all the time.
Layering and separation is good with decent amount of air between instruments. Instruments have a bit of voluminous base as Luan nicely balances the weight and body with the finishing definition.
Let me try to be as clear as possible here. Is the treble range musical, smooth or blunt? If you want the headphone to kill the sharpness and bite, this is not that kind of dull and mushy sounding headphone. Luan isn’t as precision minded as the SV023 but it still has details and clarity in its mind and you shouldn’t expect the little brother of SV023 to veer away from the “Sivga House tuning”.
STAGE AND IMAGING:
Luna lives up to the reputation of Sivga with a well developed stage and high quality imaging. It has a rounded stage like the Sennheiser HD6XX and 600 with very good height and decent depth. Z-axis presence is above average too. Bass note are paced closer to the head and are taller and deeper. They fire up and into the head. Vocals and instruments have nice height but they get shorter as they love away from the head. Instrument distribution is a bit in favor of the lows but no note feels clumsy. Imaging though is very good with fairly accurate cue placement. There isn’t a lot of air between instruments but the finishing definition saves the day. Sonics are superb, strong and clear transient effects give it a stage like feel and are more cohesive, agile and transparent presentation.
All of this makes the Luan an high quality headphone for movie watching. You don’t miss out on the whispers and subtle voices with a 3D holographic imaging.
VS Sivga SV023:
Brands like to appeal to the widest possible variety of consumers. The SV023 targets the detail seekers while the Luan is a more musical and a less aggressive alternate. It’s an exceptionally placed (and priced) headphone that slots right under the SV023 and easily sit above the HD600, HD6XX and Sundara.
I am yet to come across a headphone that does as much as the Luan. It has something for everyone and has struck an excellent balance of everything. It’s hard to find any major flaws. Even when the SV023 is a more technically capable headphone, Luan has a more acceptable tuning that targets the mass market. Make no mistakes, it is not a warm or smooth mess like HD6XX or Hifiman Sundara. One can nitpick like it would have been awesome if it had a bit more air and precision but then it will be hard to set it apart from the SV023.
In short, it’s an excellent headphone under $300 that ticks the highest number of boxes possible. Not V shaped, doesn’t need powerful source to sound good, has very good details, not overly smooth and has a very good stage. highly recommended.